The Age of Unlearning

We are all reeling with the rapidly transforming digital environment – blockchain, artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning are set to change our world in ways we can only begin to imagine. The future of work, of society and of government are in question. I am a “baby boomer\’\’ and I have realised that we have to “unlearn” some very basic beliefs and social norms, to prepare for the new “so called” 4th industrial revolution. Here are some things I have “unlearned.”

1. Video Games are bad – WRONG!  As a mother with a teenage son a few years back, I struggled with the amount of time my son and his friends played “World of Warcraft” and other video games. Social pressure to get kids off the computer and limit their playing time was enormous. I was wrong! Now I know that World of Warcraft was in fact a meeting place for tech entrepreneurs and a training ground for future leaders, and a way to make a lot of money. Players learn how to work in teams and collaborate digitally; how to motivate volunteers; how to take strategic risks; work under pressure; be agile and accountable to the rest of the team. World of Warcraft gave my son key skills to be a business leader. Many successful gamers earn large incomes – so it was a pathway to employment in a career that didn’t exist then!


2.     Study Hard, Get  good marks   and go to University and You Will Get a Job – WRONG!  Automation is coming for all of us! Many jobs will disappear and jobs we historically regarded as safe, like accounting and law, will be redefined. Universities are under extreme pressure to remain relevant – their overhead costs are too high, they are inconvenient; the best teachers can run digital classes; online rating systems will disrupt all but the best; free courses will compete with high cost institutional courses; companies like  Udacity can offer new credentialing systems; students can form networks virtually. There are many opportunities for learning outside universities. Many jobs of the future, like “Gamer” or \”Drone Manager\” don’t yet exist – so no one is training our kids for them!

3.     Stick With What You Know – WRONG!  In 2010 the price of Bitcoin was 10 cents. That same son told me to buy Bitcoin as an investment. I ignored that advice, and told him to focus on getting a job. I was wrong! Bitcoin is now over  $40,000 and my son ran coworking spaces and accelerator programs for start-up’s and never really had a conventional job!

4.     Age and Experience Matter – SOMETIMES – With age and experience come habits and norms that might not equip us for the future. Tech companies and start-ups are populated by young people – they know, understand and build the tech – and we don’t. The joy of the current era is that we have experience and knowledge of the world that young people don’t have and they understand the tech and where it is going – so we have something to offer each other. Talent matters no matter what the age.

5.     Reading, Writing and Arithmetic are the basics – WRONG! Science, maths and coding are the new world core skills and these can be taught to 8 year olds. Our education system is not keeping up with the future.


6.     Work life balance is important – WRONG!  There is no separation between work and life when you can receive and transmit data 24 hours a day from anywhere on the planet. Work life integration is the new normal and we have to figure out what that means.

Technological change is occurring at an exponentially faster pace than ever before. In order to face the future boldly, we need to “Unlearn” many of the things we were taught growing up, set aside our preconceptions and embrace what is coming with both hands and enjoy the ride! 

What else do we need to “Unlearn?”


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